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Sending the Elevator Back Down: Lessons in Leadership

November 14, 2022 | AONN+ Blog | Membership
Featuring:
Danielle Brown, MBA, RN, OCN, CN-BN
Danielle Brown, MBA, RN, OCN, CN-BN
Director, Oncology Nurse Navigation
Sarah Cannon

Each person likely has their own definition of what “good,” admirable leadership looks like. To me, I have been most impressed by those who take the time and energy to help others. When I consider this in the context of my own journey to becoming a statewide Director of Care Coordination, I remember how fortunate I was to have met people who subscribed to this same view right from the very beginning.

Sometimes the start of my navigation career feels like a lifetime ago, other times it feels like just yesterday. My husband and I had just moved to Chicago from Philadelphia. I had only been waitressing at our local Cracker Barrel for a few months when I met a nice family that included a young boy, his parents, and grandparents.

Our small talk turned into introductory conversations as time passed, and it wasn’t long before I explained I was waitressing to put myself through nursing school. The parents—let’s call them the Smiths—recommended getting in touch with a local hospital to inquire about any job opportunities that could help get my foot in the door. They also gave their permission to mention they had referred me. I graciously thanked them for their recommendation.

Being new to the area, I was just learning my way around and was not familiar with the hospital, nor did I feel qualified for any position in healthcare. I was still working toward my CNA. I applied online to be a new patient scheduler, which is comparable to a lay navigator, and informed Mr. Smith of my application. I received a call for an interview the next day. Shortly after arriving, the HR representative asked me how I knew Mr. and Mrs. Smith before explaining their family owned this hospital along with others across the county. I promptly picked my jaw up from off the floor and attempted to finish the informative interview as if I knew this all along.

A few weeks later, I started work as a new patient coordinator, or as you may call it, a lay navigator. Day after day, I was inspired by the tremendous impact nurse navigators had on their patients. I watched and learned as I saw navigators lead patients through their treatment journey. The devotion they showed to their job provided me with extra motivation as I obtained my CNA, LPN, RN, BSN, and eventually my MBA.

When I began working as a nurse navigator, I sought out any opportunity to maximize industry exposure and network with like-minded professionals. I signed up for all the committees available to me and attended as many conferences as my schedule allowed. I found mentors to learn from and mentees to share my experiences with. I didn’t know it then, but I firmly believe this is how the next generation of leaders is created.

Fast forward nearly a decade later, I am still touched by the kindness Mr. and Mrs. Smith showed me, literally having sent the elevator from the very top of the glass ceiling down to the wait staff. I worked as a navigator for 3 years before moving into management. I just recently stepped into the largest leadership position of my career, venturing into a role inclusive of care management, navigation, remote triage, support services, and genetics. I truly believe the challenges I faced as a lay navigator, an RN, and a nurse navigator prepared me to be a good leader for my navigation staff. Having people who believed in me and mentored me throughout my career has instilled lifelong lessons in me to do the same for others.

About the Author

Danielle Brown, MBA, RN, OCN, CN-BN

Currently Director of Oncology Nurse Navigation for Sarah Cannon’s North Florida Division transitioning to Director of Care Coordination for Florida Cancer Specialist, Danielle is a certified nurse leader. She is certified in Lean Six Sigma, oncology nursing, and oncology navigation for professional growth and healthcare excellence. While she specializes in breast cancer, Danielle has experience in many disease areas and considers herself an expert in patient navigation throughout the entire continuum of care. Danielle holds an MBA in healthcare management and a bachelor’s in nursing.

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